Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Minority students have a different college and world experience

CW / Natalie Teat
Denny Chimes being highlighted by the morning sun.

In the wake of affirmative action being overturned last month, I’m reminded of something my father taught me at a young age. 

Someone opened the door for me, so it’s my job not only to hold the door open for the next person, but to ensure they do the same. The door should never close, ensuring everyone gets a chance to walk through it.

A major impact of affirmative action was that institutions were required to actively seek out high-achieving minority students who otherwise would have likely been overlooked in the admissions process because of their race. The year 1965 was not a time of making your university look more diverse than it actually is, and the executive order never had anything to do with meeting quotas. 

However, when minority students are recruited, they may feel like they’re being tokenized, rather than receiving admission on merit alone.

Many predominantly white institutions will take every chance to display their diversity. They’ll reuse the same few photos for advertising purposes and tokenize successful minority students to show how anyone can be successful on their campus. 

In high school, my 12th-grade English class had 24 students, eight of whom were Black. The idea of so many Black students in an honors class was so foreign to us that we asked our teacher if the school had just given her all of the Black students that semester.

When you don’t look like most of your classmates, blending in isn’t really an option. Professors and classmates will always notice when you’re absent because sometimes you’re the only one on the roster that looks like you. If you haven’t noticed this, you’re most likely in the majority.

While there’s nothing wrong with standing out, one wrong move can be detrimental. Any mistake you make is easily noticed. Some will stereotype your whole race off that one action, using it as an excuse for prejudice. What we do as individuals will, more often than not, affect the collective.

Something worse, in my opinion, is that by being the token, you risk being considered “one of the good ones,” a term meaning that others of your race aren’t worthy of respect, but you’re the exception. For many, this can lead to wondering, “Did I get this position because of my qualifications, or because I checked a box?”

As students of color at a predominantly white institution, there’s a double-edged sword of achievement and self-doubt. Even if you’re used to being the only one that looks like you, that doesn’t make you feel any less out of place. However, while it’s an extra obstacle, we are not ashamed to proudly show who we are as scholars, leaders and changemakers. 

Once, after I expressed that I felt less successful than some of my classmates, a professor told me I only needed to worry about myself, because, at the end of the day, everyone is here because their check cleared.

No matter the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, you should never feel like your success is undeserved, as you have just as much of a right to be here and succeed as anyone else.

Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

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